The boy band is an assembly of usually attractive male singers designed to appeal to audiences of young girls. Operating on a established formula of applied R&B to pop, smooth vocal harmonizing, choreographed dance routines and a range of passionate hand gestures and facial expressions, boy bands are able to enjoy immense commercial success while contributing little in the way of musical complexity.
Throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties, musical acts such as The Monkees, Jackson 5, Bay City Rollers, and New Edition have been cited as prototypes for the boy band model but the term did not exist until the nineties when American record producer Maurice Starr popularized it with his management of New Kids on the Block.
The term is somewhat of a misnomer though. They are ‘boys’ for certain—members of the Puerto Rican boy band Menudo were periodically replaced when they turned 16, or exceeded a youthful height or pitch in their voice—but boy ‘bands’ conventionally do not play instruments.
Boy bands are usually formed on the expertise and judgment of talent managers and record producers who hold auditions. Five personality types have emerged as the tenants of a successfully marketable boy band: the bad boy, the shy one, the young one, the older brother type and a heartthrob. Some man- agers and their distinguished clients include Don Kirshner and The Monkees, Nigel Mar tin-Smith and Take That, Louis Walsh and Boyzone, Louis Walsh with Simon Cowell and Westlife, Lou Pearlman and the Backstreet Boys, ‘N Sync and LFO.
In 2001 the popularity of boy bands began to wane. MTV music reporter, Gil Kafuman prescribed a new generation of attitude unadjusted, instrument wielding slightly older counterparts that would likely resemble, Simple Plan or Good Charlotte, though these acts were not formed by an audition process nor did they have an overtly gendered market. Kaufman’s premonition has since manifested, enjoyed a moment in the sun, then eclipsed by a wave of mainstreamed indie bands featuring metrosexual front men such as Ok Go, The Killers, and Phoenix. Presently, we are amidst a reprisal of ostensible virginity and good intentions embodied by the Jonas Brothers and One Direction.
Generally, boy bands are negatively received by critics for the genre’s emphasis on appearance, market- ability and a sustained conformity to trends and general disregard for creativity. However, if members are successful in lobbying for creative control, they may compose and produce their own material. The difficulty for those who do so remains in the public’s ability, or willingness, to discern some aberrant creativity from the dominant models and formulas we’ve become accustomed to criticizing.
Poet David Antin once talked about cliché in the work of John Baldessari: “For something to be a cliché it has to have been true once…a cliché is like a pencil that once had a point and its point has been blunted by use to the extent to which it’s no longer a useful writing instrument.”
I am going to use a database, like others have before me, to attempt to make “a point”. I input “collaboration” into the e-flux search bar and generate nearly three thousand entries in the e-flux archive, the first entry appearing in 1999. Keep in mind that these search results exclude entries that may include “collaborate” and “collaborative.” Entries generated by the related term ‘convivial’ and its suffixed “conviviality” summons a meager twenty-seven with its first unfashionably late appearance in the e-flux database in 2004. Nicholas Bourriaud’s deployment of a related term ‘conviviality’ is precise and political, advocating for social encounters which “resist the mincer of the Society of the Spectacle” and give way to “micro-utopias,” but this precision is overturned in favor of a blunted pencil, collaboration, which as of yet no theory of practice has espoused it directly, despite its comparatively rampant use.
The point I’ve made is still too dull to be revived as a useful writing instrument I have been pointing to the dullness of collaboration with the use of databases and comparing it to its antecedent terminology, all of which involves little to no encounter inherent in the implied contact and friendliness of conviviality and collaboration.
Although I have made a point, it is not one point made by sharpening the dull state of collaboration. Is it too obvious to simply stick a dull pencil in a metaphorical pencil sharpener to remedy its dullness? Yes, more poetry is involved in salvaging a cliché than the introduction of more stationery. Antin’s remarks on cliché provide a possible beginning, “If [a cliché] once was useful, then there’s some possibility it can be recovered by placing it in some odd position. You can retrieve its meaning capability.” There is no mention of sharpening—the strategy he posits is “placing it in some odd position.”
You have to agree that accomplice sounds way more dangerous, sexier even, than ‘collaborator’.
“Let us go and lie on the grass, and smoke cigarettes and enjoy nature!”
Oscar Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying: An Observation” (1891) is written as a dialogue between two figures named Vivian and Cyril. Cyril is trying to coax Vivian out of his library to come chat with him, but he is in the thick of writing an article called (please note the variation on title) “The Decay of Lying: A Protest”. He rejects Cyril’s invitation on the account that nature is uncomfortable and overrated. Cyril concedes to his objection and enters the library to engage Vivian in conversation about his project. I would imagine that at the time of writing this, Wilde comported with his milieu as Vivian does with Cyril in this text—“If you promise not to interrupt too often, I will read you my article,” and “Ahem! An- other cigarette, please.” These colloquialisms indicate the restaging of conversation that would relieve the author of this dialogue, Wilde, from the standard expectation of a writer to dispense certified truths or provide banal evidence for his claims. Thus, the context of a dialogue gives Wilde license to dispense extravagant claims in the arena of a fictional conversation, as we all do in private life. In conversations we can dethrone the sublimity of a sunset.
“They belong to the time when Turner was the last note in art. To admire them is a distinct sign of provincialism of temperament. Upon the other hand they go on. Yesterday evening Mrs. Arundel insisting on my coming to the window, and looking at the glorious sky, she called it. Of course I had to look at it. She is one of those absurdly pretty philistines, whom no one can deny nothing. And what was it? It was simply a very second rate Turner, a Turner of a bad period, with all the painter’s worst faults exaggerated and overemphasized.”
It can be beautiful, but does it hold our interest? For Wilde, the truth of a sunset is devoid of facture, the quality of artistic handling, “Lying, the retelling of beautiful untrue things is the proper aim of Art,” and, “after all, what is a fine line? Simply that which is its own evidence. If a man is sufficiently unimaginative to produce evidence in support of a lie, he might as well speak the truth at once.”—Go look at a sunset.
Further along, he revokes the existence of Japan be- cause the people who live there do not resemble the way they are depicted in the artworks of his time:
“If you set a picture by Hokusai, or Hokkei, or any of the great native painters, beside a real Japanese gentleman or lady, you will see that there is not the slightest resemblance between them. The actual people who live in Japan are not un- like the general run of English people…In fact the whole of Japan is a pure invention. There is no such country. There are no such people.”
To think of the country of Japan as a conspiracy, due to its lack of accurate representation given to the English people is as riotous as it is totally geographically untrue and politically incorrect. As a result of a lack of conspiracy, we would all be consigned to telling the truth.
Even with all the conviction that saturates the dialogue it is important, but disenchanting to remember that Vivian’s protests against the decay of lying are in reality what Wilde strategically posits as “observations”, and not his impassioned pontification. Is the juxtaposition of dignified form and absurdity of content the “odd positioning” that Antin prescribes?
Without a bit of conspiracy, all the self-righteousness acquired from conducting proper protocol would be detrimental to our conspiratorial faculties to oddly position a dull pencil. If we cannot be pointed, then we must be oddly positioned.
According to Raymond Williams’s Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, the earliest English use of ‘collective’ as an adjective was in the 16th Century to describe “people acting together.” As a noun in the 17th century, it was useful in describing a unit of people. Williams attributes the arrival of its social and political connotations to the “new democratic consciousness of the early 19th Century.” ‘Collectivism’ was described as a recent word in the 1880’s, but its earliest use is recorded in the 1850’s.Williams cites its use in France in1869 as a way of distinguishing a group’s conduct from the state. It seems that though it is a word that connotes an officiousness, cohesive gathering or organization, it traditionally holds the establishment, state or institution in contempt.
Elsewhere in Williams’s book the word ‘community’ is defined separately though it is nearly synonymous with ‘collective’. One might presume that community differs from collective by virtue of scale or geography, in the sense that there is more people or that they occupy a certain part of a city, however, William’s distinguishes the community from the collective for its positive affectations of localism, “From the 19th century the sense of immediacy or locality was strongly developed in the context of larger and more complex industrial societies.” Additionally, community seems less goal-oriented than a collective, and more sustainable or consistent, “[C]ommunity was the word normally chosen for experiments in an alternative kind of group-living,” hence the word commune. William’s concludes the entry on a slightly ominous note, “[C]ommunity can be the warmly persuasive word to describe an existing set of relations, or the warmly persuasive word to describe an alternative set of relationships…unlike all other terms of social organization (state, nation, society, etc.) it seems never to be used unfavorably, and never to be given any positive opposing or distinguishing term.”
Well-received hack, John Kelsey once likened art collectives to the boy bands of the nineties. Himself a member of an art collective, Bernadette Corporation, which emerged predominantly in the late- nineties and early millennium, I consider him qualified to make that comparison. He was being funny. I laughed because its poignant, I gave a few nods of agreement because I think it is apt, I write this now because I want to be sure.
I was at the liquor store to pick up wine for dinner with someone I’ve never had dinner with before, nor breakfast or lunch for that matter. The cashier says, “What are you eating for dinner?” I have no idea, I like Malbecs though, which is what I prefer though I know next to nothing about wine. “I don’t know, but I like Malbecs.”
What do we expect to hear when we casually ask someone what they are doing tonight? What if it’s something totally devious (in which case, I’m sure they would lie or answer with vagueness) or innocent but realistic, like having dinner with someone for the first time? The question knows no bounds, yet we don’t brace ourselves for any answers.
He likely assumed it was a first date. That’s actually a really good euphemism for a first date. “I’m going to see a movie with someone I’ve never watched a movie with” or “I’m going to the park with someone I’ve never watched a movie with.”
For lunch I was thinking of having a Skor and an apple. At the grocery store where I went to pick up the orange juice you like there was an older couple in the line in front of me. The man looks at me, the woman doesn’t turn around at all. He notices that all I have is almond milk, two shallots, one apple and your orange juice. He says, “Is that all you have?” And gestures me to skip in front of him. I told the man it was not necessary, but it seemed like more of a scene to refuse than to just allow people to have the satisfaction of being kind.
The cashier wasn’t paying attention to his kindness so the space in between his groceries and the check out machine got sucked away beyond the horizon of the conveyor belt. I stood there with shopping in my hands and said this nice man said I could go ahead of him. She seemed pleased, or amused and let me slip my items on the border between the metal surface that scans bar codes and the bar of plastic that held the couple’s groceries back.
I stop at a smaller grocery store on the way home because I forgot the essential Skor. It’s not that it was out of stock; they virtually have every chocolate bar imaginable and a few weird ones except Skor.
Half an hour before I’m supposed to arrive at dinner, I don’t know what to do with myself, while watching a movie I eat a Snickers and an apple but now I realize I should have brought it along with me to accompany the blind choice, Malbec. It would have been endearing. I know little of chocolate. I just eat it. I just put it in my mouth and enjoy.
I don’t know if I would recommend it. I am tired now.